Bulford (1861)

The Rev. J. Protheroe furnishes the following account of the work of God in his neighbourhood:?For some time past a few of our pious friends had been impressed with the conviction that God was about to visit us in mercy, and they have not been disappointed. The first indications of this became visible about the end of November last, and were observed in the quiet stillness which pervaded the congregation, in the earnest desire and deep anxiety of the members to see among them a general awakening, in the extraordinary spirit of prayer which was poured out upon the people and their faith in the efficacy of prayer, and in some mysterious influence, al?most irresistible, which I felt upon my own mind, by which, for some time before. I was all but impelled to preach to my people from certain subjects preparatory to the coming blessing, and by which I was more than ordinarily led to depend upon the promised aid of the Spirit in the discharge of public engagements. Duty became a pleasure, and the preaching of the cross, always a favourite work, now became doubly so to me.

For some few months after the second week of last year, when the church universal spent seven days on its knees in prayer to God, we had meetings for prayer almost every night in the week. These meetings were never forgotten. From the conversation I have had with inquirers after salvation and candidates for church fellowship, it appears that, in the generality of cases, there had been a deep impression produced under the ministry of the word sometime before any immediate indications of a Revival were seen; and I learn that under one sermon, from the words, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me," &c., at least nine months before the awakening actually took place, five or six persons were deeply and saving impressed, and led to the cross and to the throne. A similar remark may be made with regard to other sermons preached about that time.

The fields at length became white for the harvest, and many souls have been gathered into the garner. The number already added to the church since the Revival began has more than doubled the former number of church members nearly trebled it. At one of our church-meetings, lately held, I had the unspeakable pleasure of giving the right hand of fellowship to twenty on their admission into the church, and to propose at the same time ten more as candidates for Christian communion. Of the awakening that followed the ministry of John the Baptist, it is said that "every man pressed into the kingdom of God." It suffered violence, and the violent took it by force. It was like a city besieged; not, however, by foes, but by friends. The awakening at Bulford has been very general; among young and old; persona of every character have manifested a firm determination to become personally interested in the privi?leges and blessings of the kingdom of heaven, and an ardent desire to become recognised subjects of it. The undecided have been led to cast in their lot with the people of God. The thoughtless and careless have become serious and alarmed; the drunkard has become sober; the lukewarm, and those who were at ease in Zion, have been aroused and made alive from the dead; and many who were never accustomed to attend a place of worship, or to pay any serious regard to the concerns of their souls, are now found in the way where Jesus is wont to pass by.

For the last four months, meetings for prayer have been held almost every night in the week, and are numerously attended. The effects of the Revival on our young people have been remarkable. They pray not only for themselves, but for their relatives and friends, and the unconverted in the village, with great earnestness and importunity. It is astonishing to what a wonderful degree they are blessed with the gift of prayer: "I thank thee, O God, for what thou hast done for me." Even little children pray; they are not passed by. Jesus is saying, "Suffer the little ones to come unto me." Indeed, all pray, old and young. They cannot but pray; they are filled with the spirit of prayer, and consequently they pray with an unction and a readiness, and frequency, and earnestness, which must strike with astonishment all who hear them. When on the Sabbath or on week-evenings the regular service is over a service, perhaps, of more than two hours' duration, and sometimes three a great number of them linger about as if unwilling to leave; and then return to pray, and continue till late, supplicating God's throne for the conversion of ungodly relatives and friends. For some years past, a prayer-meeting has been held in the school-room adjoining the chapel on the Sabbath evening immediately before the service. The place is now generally crowded; there is only standing room. The early Sabbath prayer-meeting, held at seven in the morning, is also well attended. At the week-evening prayer-meetings, which are, as I have said, held almost every night, I speak for about twenty minutes either from a single verse or a larger portion of God's word; having finished, I express my wish that two or three of the brethren, without specifying their names, would pray successively without singing between, and then another hymn is sung, and five or six more pray as before; for I now find that I am surrounded by a goodly company of praying men, a company whose hearts God hath touched. Nine or ten usually pray at these meetings, and on some occasions as many as sixteen have engaged in prayer. I have seldom had a meeting without having at its close some inquiries after salvation; as many as fifteen persons remained on one night to converse with me about the concerns of their souls. For these inquirers, for the young converts, and for the members generally, I have established a weekly meeting for reading together the word of God, and spiritual edification and encouragement. Would that such meetings were in connexion with every church in England! "I believe in the communion of saints; "and I also believe that to prosper as churches, we must have meetings for Christian fellowship and improvement more extensively held.

A happy change has come over the village, and everywhere around its influence is felt. The police-officer located in our neighbourhood one day remarked that in his walks through Bulford, instead of trifling conversation, he could now hear only the voice of prayer and of praise ascending to God from the cottages of the poor. And young people, instead of frequenting the public-house, as formerly many of them did, now abstain altogether from intoxicating drinks, and derive their chief delight from the service of God, saying they never were so happy before. In the fields, here and there, during the dinner-hour, you may see and hear groups of persons while resting speaking of the things touching the King, or, perhaps, one of their number reading to the rest some religious book. What hath God wrought!

The Revival at Bulford is distinguished especially by deep solemnity. There is no physical prostration, no outward extravagance, no religious bustle. I am not aware of anything specially remarkable of this kind except the case of one young man who made the observation that one Sabbath morning, while he was listening to me preaching from the words, "I will hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace unto his people and to his saints," he felt as if he must fall off his seat, his sins appearing to him in all their magnitude and malignity. A deep sense of their previous guilty and perilous condition as sinners, an impression that they may at any time unexpectedly be called out of the world, a constant disposition to pray, together with strong faith in the efficacy of prayer, a calm and happy frame of mind, and a consistent walk, are among some of the principal characteristics by which the converts are distinguished. "My children walk in the truth." "The joy of the Lord is their strength."

By what I have already stated, I am forcibly reminded of-

1. The necessity of Divine influence, and the vast importance of depending more and more upon the promised aid of the Spirit in the discharge of all religious duties. The Spirit is the great Agent in this work, and He it is that convinces and turns from darkness to light the ignorant and rebellious. We are instruments in his hands; He condescends to employ human instrumentality; and I find that since I have been led to depend more than ever upon the promised aid of the Spirit in the dis?charge of my duties, I have preached with greater pleasure to myself and more profit to my people. Souls have been saved, and God has been glorified. "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts."

2. The efficacy of prayer and the connexion there is between prayer and the reception of blessings. We had long been praying for this Revival; crying long, but believingly and patiently. It is now come. The Lord hath come into his temple. In the wilderness, in the desert, the desert of the heart, a highway for our God has been made straight, and many a heart has lifted up its gate for the King of glory to come in.

From the 'Revival Newspaper', Volume V, page 102-3.